Curious Gorge & The King
When a good friend of mine phoned me up recently to let me know he’d secured permits to walk the Caminito del Rey, I jumped at the chance. “The Kings Little Walk”. The king in question, none other than Alfonso XIII, inaugurated this pathway in 1921, the aim being to oversee maintenance of the El Chorro dam and hydroelectric plant. He had the kingly wisdom to never walk it again.
In recent times it’s been billed as, “the world’s most dangerous hike”. Ok, maybe not the most dangerous, but it’s definitely up there. The pathway, in continuous decline for decades, was the reserve of adrenalin freaks and/or the criminally insane. In 2000, a chap with the unfortunate nickname “El Loco” fell along with two other companions to their deaths while trying to zip-line across one of the more treacherous parts. RIP, Loco. The Caminito was closed off, funds were found to undergo a million-dollar restoration, and 15 years later, it was re-inaugurated this past March, to much fanfare.
You have to get a permit before heading off to see what the excitement’s all about. A helpful website will fill you in on all the details, and you’ll need to book well in advance, since a limited number of people are allowed onto the reinforced pathway at any given time. The Camino closes on Mondays, or at a moment’s notice in inclement weather.
The pathway is about 7 km all told, and perfectly doable for anyone in reasonable shape and not easily fazed by vertigo. In fact, we had two young girls in our party, so it’s a great family activity. You’ll want to pack sunscreen, water, and of course, a camera. But leave the selfie-sticks at home: they’re prohibited on the Caminito (applause).
Although you can technically start in El Chorro, you’ll maximize the wow factor by starting from Ardales, easily accessed from either Malaga or Ronda. There’s a great little restaurant called El Mirador where you can park your car and walk about 1.5km to the start of the path, at which point you have to show your permit, your passport, and pick up a stylish construction helmet. At the Caminito’s end, El Chorro, you’ll either need to wait for a municipal bus, or phone for a taxi from Álora to come fetch you, or have us organize the day, transport, and an English speaking guide.
Admittedly most of the danger of walking the Camino has largely vanished and the pathway now has cable wires to prevent anyone from accidentally pitching over the side (thank God). But the scenery is just as spectacular. The Caminito and the Gaitanes Gorge surely rank as one of Spain’s top natural attractions. And the cable suspension bridge at the end is, well….bring a change of underwear.
From risking his neck on high-wire canyon crossings in southern Spain, to braving a dozen bodega visits in a single day, Sebastian Lapostol has never been afraid to put it all on the line in the name of trip-planning excellence. Email him here directly here for more info on the curiosity of the gorges.